ICE de­tainees launch hunger strikes

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - PALOMA ESQUIVEL paloma.esquivel@la­

Im­mi­gra­tion de­tainees launched hunger strikes this week at the Ade­lanto De­ten­tion Fa­cil­ity in San Bernardino County to bring at­ten­tion to what they say is ex­ces­sively high bail, in­ad­e­quate med­i­cal care and bad food, among other com­plaints.

A half-dozen asy­lum seek­ers from Cen­tral Amer­ica stopped eat­ing Mon­day and re­sumed at lunch Wed­nes­day, U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment spokes­woman Vir­ginia Kice said in a state­ment.

About 30 fe­male im­mi­gra­tion de­tainees told of­fi­cials Wed­nes­day they planned to start a hunger strike and re­fused break­fast and lunch, Kice said.

“ICE per­son­nel at the fa­cil­ity have been meet­ing with the women to get a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of their con­cerns and this af­ter­noon the women in­di­cated they in­tended to re­sume eat­ing be­gin­ning with din­ner [Wed­nes­day] evening,” Kice said in a state­ment.

In a news re­lease, the women said they are strik­ing for bet­ter med­i­cal care, lower bond amounts, more re­spect from guards and for moth­ers at the fa­cil­ity to be re­united with their chil­dren.

The male asy­lum seek­ers from Cen­tral Amer­ica said that bail had been set “im­pos­si­bly high” and that they have faced “hu­mil­i­a­tion and dis­crim­i­na­tion,” bad food and in­com­pe­tent med­i­cal staff. The strike be­gan with eight de­tainees, but two re­sumed eat­ing Tues­day, of­fi­cials said.

Tris­tan Call, a spokesman for Sureñxs En Ac­ción, a Nashville-based ac­tivist or­ga­ni­za­tion that has been work­ing with the de­tainees, said he has not heard from them and could not con­firm that the strike had ended.

The pri­vately run Ade­lanto fa­cil­ity has long faced scru­tiny from im­mi­grant ad­vo­cates over al­leged ne­glect, lack of ad­e­quate med­i­cal care and other is­sues. It faced in­creased at­ten­tion this year af­ter the deaths of three de­tainees.

De­tainee Isaac Lopez Castillo said in a state­ment that the hunger strik­ers hoped to bring out­side at­ten­tion to con­di­tions at Ade­lanto. The fa­cil­ity is op­er­ated by the GEO Group, a pri­vate con­trac­tor that owns and runs dozens of pris­ons and de­ten­tion cen­ters across the coun­try.

“We are from El Sal­vador, Hon­duras and Gu­atemala,” Lopez Castillo said in the state­ment re­leased through Sureñxs En Ac­ción. “Ade­lanto is one of the pris­ons which ex­ists for those who are seek­ing po­lit­i­cal asy­lum, and in real­ity our records are clean, none of us have prior crim­i­nal records. The bail is set im­pos­si­bly high, and it’s a hu­mil­i­at­ing joke be­cause we are poor, we don’t have that kind of money.”

The de­tainees is­sued de­mands that in­cluded re­duced bail, po­lit­i­cal asy­lum, new uni­forms, more time for re­li­gious ser­vices and clean wa­ter at all hours of the day.

In 2015, 26 asy­lum seek­ers want­ing to be re­leased while their cases were pro­cessed launched a hunger strike at Ade­lanto that lasted nearly two weeks.

Ear­lier that year, more than two dozen mem­bers of Con­gress wrote a let­ter to the U.S. Jus­tice Depart­ment and ICE of­fi­cials ex­press­ing con­cerns about re­ports of med­i­cal ne­glect at Ade­lanto.

Three Ade­lanto de­tainees have died since March.

Os­mar Epi­fanio Gon­za­lez-Gadba, 32, of Nicaragua, died at a hos­pi­tal six days af­ter he was found hang­ing in his cell on March 22.

In April, Ser­gio Alonso Lopez, 55, of Mex­ico, died sev­eral days af­ter he was taken to the hos­pi­tal af­ter vom­it­ing blood. Im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials said he had a his­tory of se­ri­ous med­i­cal is­sues. The pre­lim­i­nary cause of death was in­ter­nal bleed­ing, of­fi­cials said.

Vi­cente Cac­eres-Mara­di­aga, 46, a Hon­duran na­tional, died in late May in an am­bu­lance on the way to the hos­pi­tal. The pre­lim­i­nary cause of death was listed as acute coro­nary syn­drome, im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials said in a state­ment.

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